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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1946..


MR CONNOLLY (3.29): I take the opportunity to respond briefly to this statement on behalf of the Opposition. Broadly, we welcome what the Chief Minister and Health Minister has had to say and in particular endorse Mrs Carnell's statement towards the end of the speech that, although much has been accomplished, there is still more to be done. That is indeed a correct assessment of the situation. It is something to the ACT's shame that it was only in 1994 that the last vestiges of the Lunacy Act of 1898 were removed from the statute books in this Territory. The passage of the mental health legislation Mrs Carnell referred to was one of the most significant legislative achievements of the period of our Labor Government. It was a significant achievement for this Assembly. There was a quite vigorous campaign to sensationalise certain aspects, particularly the involuntary treatment and such orders, and it was to the credit of this Assembly that people managed to avoid the temptation of playing politics with that. As a result of the efforts of the Social Policy Committee, presided over by my then colleague Ms Ellis, we were able to reach a generally bipartisan position on that legislation.

I would say to Ms Tucker that she may well find that, while there may be areas that interest her more - that is not to say that she is not interested in mental health issues - the Social Policy Committee's review of the mental health package could well be the most important task that committee will have over the life of this parliament. Inevitably, there will be glitches in the system, despite the best efforts of a lot of people over many years in putting together the ACT's package, which has been seen by commentators outside the ACT as something of a model of integrated mental health legislation, and the ACT is one of the few jurisdictions that actually meet the national model of mental health legislation. There inevitably will be glitches, and we will be looking to the Social Policy Committee to continue the work of the last Assembly and to come up with solutions that can bring the Assembly together on these issues rather than divide us.

Mental Health Week, which Mrs Carnell briefly referred to, was celebrated and observed last week, which is a good thing; although, again to echo the Chief Minister, much has been accomplished but much more is to be done. In opposition one tends to watch a lot more TV than when one was in government, and I noticed last week that there were a lot of those advertisements running - "Bloggs is coming back to work. Is that not the person who had a car accident last year? It is a good thing he is coming back to work"; or "Is that not the person who had a breakdown last year?". That challenges us about the way we often think differently of a person who has had a mental illness from the way we think of a person who has had a physical illness. That is a very encouraging program and a lot of good work is being done on awareness raising.

I was, however, horrified last night, and I take the opportunity to say this here today, watching the ABC's arts program Review, when they did a review of a shortly to be released Australian movie featuring a love affair between two people suffering from schizophrenia. At the end of the generally favourable review, the learned and fairly superior arts commentator said, "It is a story about two charming fruitloops". I thought that was an utterly appalling statement from an arts reviewer describing a film - - -


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